By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
Criminal Court “D” at the Temple of Justice has released five of the 18 defendants who are standing trial for the commission of the crime of Mercenarism which is alleged to have occurred in neighboring Cote d’ Ivoire and termed it as a ‘mark of professionalism’ on the part of the government lawyers.
On the 73rd day of the court’s jury sitting, the presiding judge, Emery Paye, partially denied the defense lawyer’s Motion of Acquittal when he ruled that at the close of arguments on May 8, prosecution in its argument conceded to the release of co-defendants Timothy Barlee, Christopher Larkpeh, Fred Chelly, Junior Gelor and Emmanuel Pewee on grounds that their names were not mentioned by any of the witnesses that had been available to testify before the court.
“Accordingly, the Republic of Liberia reluctantly submits that the five co-defendants if the court so desire are the subject of release under the motion for judgment for acquittal as filed only,” Judge Paye further said.
He explained how the submission in the mind of the court, is a concession of the prosecution to respect to count 17 of the defense lawyer’s motion which it describes as “a bold step taken as a mark of professionalism noting that the prosecution has had no desire to prosecute but rather to create a level-playing field in the trial of the defendants.”
Earlier in count 17, the lawyers representing the defendants who were being tried jointly argued that seven of the defendants had been acquitted but the prosecution only consented to dismissing the charge of Mercenarism filed against five thereby leaving out defendants Sam Tarlee and Prince Youtey because according to the State, the two defendants were linked to the crime charged.
Upon reading the minutes of the court, Judge Paye said he discovered that defendant Ofori Diah’s testimony linked defendant Tarley while the statement and testimony of defendants Emmanuel Saymah and Pascal Kollie linked defendant Youtey.
Meanwhile, Judge Paye ruled in favor of the contention of the prosecution to deny the two co-defendants while he denied the Motion for Judgment of Acquittal of all on grounds that it is alleged that the other defendants made confessions in their voluntary statements before the police and or during security investigations.
He said in the testimonies of government lawyers, the court records observed that the other defendants were linked to the crime therefore they should be granted the opportunity to take the stand in their defense in order to place the trial jury in the position to determine the facts in the matter at bar.
On May 1, prosecution rested with its production of both oral and other pieces of evidence but on the same day, defense filed a 19-count Motion for the Judgment of Acquittal in favor of all the defendants in the dock on grounds that the State had failed to establish a prima faci case against their clients.
While arguing the Motion for Judgment of Acquittal on May 8, to count 2 in closing of its argument, prosecution informed the court that all witnesses who were essential to name or to have named five of the co-defendants feared their peaceful enjoyment of life and property as a result of threat and therefore did not appear to testify.
The government prosecutors prayed the court to consider the five named defendants stating that it is to avoid the delay of the proceedings predicated on other legal grounds but the defense counter-reacted by stating that to admit that out of the 18 defendants, the court should use its discretion and free five to enable the rest stand trial was to put prosecution’s submission contrary to the law under the doctrine of the Motion for Judgment of Acquittal.
Defense argued that the element that warranted the acquittal of all defendants during trial consisted of material variance between the indictment and proof; hearsay evidence which is not admissible by law; contradiction between testimonies of State witnesses and that evidence already produced clearly shows that the State has no case against the defendants.